From the Mail Bag…

From the Mail Bag…

Here’s an email I recently got:

Hi Louie,
Your work is really nice. I just discovered Portland Leather Works. I’ve been wanting to learn how to use a whip. For a few years now. I am determined. But.. first I need a beginners whip. I’ve been looking to buy but then I remembered how crafty I am Id like to make one. Money is an issue unfortunately. Do you have any advice I would appreciate it:-)
Thank you,

The thing about making your first whip and that whip being your first whip is that you don’t know what makes a good whip.  So you don’t know the how far the weight inside the whip should be carried out into the lash, or how different handle lengths will change how the whip handles.  So personally I recommend trying out some whips so you know what the goal is before you try to make one.

Also from the angle of saving money, it’s not economical to make a single whip to save money.  Let’s say you are going to make a basic 4 plait bullwhip in cowhide.  You’ll need to buy:

  • The proper leather in the correct weight $75-$125
  • Fall leather $100 or if you are lucky and can find some scrap $5-$10
  • Sinew $10-$20
  • Misc small tools $10-$25
  • Cracker thread $10

So add that up and your first whip will cost about the same as one of my Beginner’s Bullwhips, however your first whip probably won’t crack as well as the one that I make. There’s one reason for that, I’ve made whips before, and have made many of these, so I have my design down.

Oh, I forgot to factor in some sort of instructions.  I recommend Ron Edwards book How to Make Whips, that adds a few bucks to the price.

So to sum it up, if you just want one whip, it’s cheaper to buy one that’s been professionally made.  If you want to learn to make whips, you’ll spend a lot of money on leather learning before you end up with a super solid whip!





Learn to Make a Bullwhip DVD

Learn to Make a Bullwhip DVD

I’m working on finishing up a project I started a couple of months ago while I was travelling in the midwest.  It’s DVD that will teach you how to make a basic beginners bullwhip.  The pattern I’m using is pretty simple, it’s a core, plaited belly and 4 plait overlay.

This DVD assumes you’ve never made a whip before, and takes you step by step through the entire process.  Everything used in it was sourced in one shopping trip to a Tandy Leather Factory and an Ace Hardware.  However you could get the same materials from pretty much any leather shop and hardware store.

The DVD was recorded while I was travelling, so I’m making the whip in hotel rooms.  I did this on purpose because I wanted to come up with a way to make a whip for someone who didn’t have a whip making shop.  Since I was in a hotel room, I couldn’t screw hooks into the walls, so you’ll learn to make a whip…without committing to hanging hooks on the walls in your house!

Currently I’m doing the final editing on the Make a Beginner’s Bullwhip DVD and it is scheduled to ship out on 5/23  . This DVD will  sell for $30, however as a presale special, if you order before midnight on 5/22/16, you will save $10!  That means the Make a Beginner’s Bullwhip DVD is only $20 and I’ll include free shipping!

The DVD is $30 and to order simply click the button below to add it to you cart!

Then click the “Cart” button at the top of the page to complete checkout!


Bullwhip Unbuild

Bullwhip Unbuild

If you’ve read my blog since it got started you’ll know I’ve taken apart many whips over the years.  These are whips made by the top whip makers in the USA and the world…and some by whip makers that aren’t top of their game.

Since the nylon bullwhip from Pakistan isn’t one I’m going to use I figure why not take it apart.  Here’s the whip before:


So far I’ve gotten just shy of about halfway through the unbraiding process. Before we get to the pictures here are a couple of things visually that I notice before taking apart the whip:

1:  The transition knot is larger in diameter than the heel knot. After taking apart the knots there is no real reason for this other  than style.  It makes me wonder why it’s done that way when most modern whips have equal sized knots or larger heel knots.

2. The strand drops are really strange looking.  Where the strands drop the strand to be dropped is on top of the strand next to it.  After seeing inside the whip I think the strand drops aren’t drops at all, they are “strand adds”.  Meaning the whip is braided from the point  towards the handle and strands are added instead of dropped.

Okay now here’s the photo gallery with some notes:

I’m very interested in this core that is wrapped in electrical tape.  From the tip that isn’t covered it looks like it’s paracord with a leather bolster on top then electrical tape.  We’ll see what’s up when we get there…


Too Much Going On!

Too Much Going On!

I’ve been a very busy boy over here the last few weeks!  I’ve had a 2-3 show per day performing schedule, filling bullwhip orders as they come in and trying to build up stock for two different workshops this week.  Luckily for me next week the two workshops will be over.

Yesterday I has a  couple of orders for stock whip kits come in and I only had one in stock, so I had to make up some more to fulfill the order and to have at least on in stock.  When I make these stock whip kits I need to make at least two (usually three) at a time to make it worth the time to make them.  It takes me about 90 minutes to make one from scratch, but only about 2ish hours to make three of them. So making them in bulk saves me some time!

Here are a couple of them:

Make your own stock whip kit

Currently I have three deluxe beginners bullwhips in the works.  All three have the bellies finished and overlays cut out.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time to do all the strand prep and get at least one them braided!



10 foot bullwhip

10 foot bullwhip

Yesterday I started work on a 10 foot 12 plait Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Style Bullwhip.  Here’s what I’ve done so far:


Whiskey and Brandy colored kangaroo hides

Then I prepared the handle foundation and attached the core.


Bullwhip core

After the core I stared working on the 4 plait kangaroo belly.  First I cut out the sets for the two plaited bellies, then attached the inner belly set to the handle:


4 plait kangaroo sets for double plaited bellies



Plaited belly

Then I put a bolster over the top of that belly:


bullwhip making

After the inner bolster I attached the outer 4 plait kangaroo belly:

Bullwhip 10 foot 12 plait kangaroo

That belly gets braided:


double plaited belly in a bullwhip

And a bolster gets put on top of that:


Bullwhip with two bellies and two bolsters

In the above picture you can see a lot of the tools that I use to make my bolster.  I use a straight edge, caliper, and a pen.  After the boslter gets attached it’s time to cut the strands for the overlay and do all the strand prep:


12 plait kangaroo set for a bullwhip

The picture above is of the 12 plait overlay set after I’ve done all the strand prep.  Now it’s time to start working on plaiting the overlay:


12 plait kangaroo bullwhip

While working on this bullwhip’s overlay I was about 24 inches into the when I noticed a mispliat about 2 inches past the checkerboard plaiting.  If the misplait was further down the thong I’d leave it because it’s a cosmetic issue  and won’t change how the whip works.  But since the misplait was right after the checkerboard it really stood out…so I got to undo the whip and back it up to to just past the handle to fix it, then replait the whip.  

I’m hoping that I will have time to get a good chunk of the overlay finished today, I’m going out of town for the long weekend, and dont’ want a half finished overlay hanging around that long.  


How I Make my Bullwhips…

How I Make my Bullwhips…


Here’s the process that I currently go through when making my bullwhips. 
First I cut out the bellies and overlay from a veg tanned kangaroo hide:

Kangaroo for bullwhip

Then I stretch and pare the strands:


Kangaroo skin for making a bullwhip

Next I split the kangaroo strands so that they are the same thickness:


how to make a bull whip

 The picture below is of all the kangaroo strands that are ready to braid (except for plaiting soap).

Kangaroo belly and overlay sets

At this point I’ve done a lot of work and probably put in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of work and the the strands pretty much look like when the did when I first cut them out.  In reality the strands in the first picture aren’t very straight. Then in the second picture they are straight, but the thickness is wavy.  And the third picture’s strands are straight and of an even thickness. 

Now for the core, it’s attached to a handle:


bullwhip core

Then I attach the belly to the handle:


bull whip core with belly

Finally it’s time to start some braiding!  So I plait the inner belly:


bull whip plaited belly

After I plait that inner belly it gets rolled between two boards to smooth it out and make it round:


bullwhip plaited inner belly

The bullwhip that has been rollled doesn’t look much different in pictures, but the texture of the bullwhip has changed (for the better!).  

Now I add a bolster:


bullwhip boslter

After the bolster I add the set for the second plaited belly:


bullwhip and double plaited bellies

Below is a good picture of the two bellies and the bolster between them:


double plaited bellies on a bull whip

I finish plaited the 2nd belly:


bullwhip double plaited bellies


Then I roll it between two boards to smooth out this layer.  It’s very important to roll every plaited layer or you will end up with a funny shaped whip.


rolling a bull whip

After rolling the whip I add the final bolster:


bullwhip bolster

When that bolster is attached I make the butt knot foundation:


bullwhip making

Then I add the overlay and plait it.  I consider attaching the fall part of plaiting the  overlay.


12 plait bullwhip

Next I make the transition knot foundation a tie the transition knot:


bull whip transition knot

Then I finish the butt knot and attach the 6 plait wrist loop:


indiana jones style bullwhip

Now I tie the butt knot:


6 foot 12 plait bullwhip

Next I roll and shellac the bullwhip, and here’s the finished whip:


kangaroo bullwhip


bullwhips for sale


12 plait kangaroo bullwhip 6 feet in lenght

I didn’t go into depth into measurements or how I make the bolsters, fillers, etc because I’ve covered that here.  

I hope you enjoyed seeing how a bullwhip is made.